Tuesday, January 6, 2009

quest for authenticity

I have been waiting for moments of inspired clarity to compose a fabulous blog entry for the new year. Day after day, I wait. I reflect. I ponder. Nada.

Today, I am writing anyway. I write through the fogginess, doubt, fatigue, hesitation, anticipation, excitement... Write anyway. What the heck. I am just showing up, click create new entry... and see what happens.

As I step into the new year, I am taking stock of what was learned during the holiday season and in the last year. What were lessons learned, places of personal growth that I intend to carry with me into this year?

We mindfully chose to do the holidays differently this year. In years past, we have done what was expected, shown up mostly out of a sense of obligation and habit, but our minds and spirits were not nourished. Mind you, this season, there was plenty of socializing, eating, gift receiving and giving, photo opps, and celebration. Also moments of silence, train playing, conversing, and reflection. I am tired but not depleted. All of it done "our way." It was an experiment to do the holiday season more authentically, and frankly, despite the fallouts, there were some steps taken in the right direction.

What has been on my mind often is this question of authenticity. What does it mean to celebrate holidays and birthdays in a manner true to oneself? How do we honor tradition and convention in ways that allow room for creativity and change? More importantly, how to live life authentically in this way?

I am trying to figure this out. I have been struck lately by how easily we can read someone else's choices as somehow a reflection on ours. Almost a chastisement or commentary on one's inadequacies.

Case in point. Something simple. I absolutely love food, the preparation and sharing of it. It is one of my passions in life. I share it freely. It just happens to be mostly vegan and organic. Now, does this mean that I have implicitly judge others harshly for not sharing that choice? Doubtful. I love entertaining. It is one of my joys in life. I relish planning menus, invitation lists, the details. The working of a meal, an event, an outing are fun for me. I plan ahead. That is my way. I don't expect others to do it that way. Does my open enjoyment of these activities count as boasting on my part? Offense not intended. So why modify myself in any way?

Someone commented to me recently that when she notices a virtue in someone that she lacks, it makes her question and doubt herself. She might distance herself from that person so as to not confront her own inadequacies. I am not sure what she meant exactly. I found myself wondering how this impacts our interactions in countless way that I was not aware of to date.

This interaction made me learn to be empathetic and compassionate in a way that was new for me. My knee-jerk tendency to be self-righteous in defense of my authenticity has been tempered somewhat with a new-found understanding.

When I notice a remarkable quality, I not only commend the person in whom I admire it but also take notes so that I may better myself, learn and grow. Then again, that is my way. Not everyone shares this perspective.

On the flip-side, when what I do implies for others that they are somehow remiss, it feeds back to me in a way that compromises my authenticity. I notice that I feel apologetic when others perceive my choices as a (negative) reflection of theirs. I temper down my efforts. I might even become apologetic or defensive about my tendencies to over-plan or over-schedule. I over-compensate for my need for organization and planning by downplaying my enjoyment.

Is that authentic? Not so much.

So, how do I just live my life, and make simple choices for my everyday living anyway? This is my quest. I am going to make some not-so-simple decisions and choices this year, and I will relish the process, and share it simply with no intention to harm. I will simply make my choices in my quest to get things right in my life ... faltering, learning, and living as fully as I can. And, temper the sharing with compassion and understanding for how they might be perceived in way not intended. I will need help to do this effectively.

All I know is that I just have to live my life my way, and I mean no harm to others as I do this. That is, simply put, my quest for authenticity. What is yours?

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